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Darbuka – The Belly Dance Drum – Useful Tips on Playing Darbuka For Belly Dancers
Useful tips for playing Darbuka-Doumbek for belly dancers. Darbuka- Belly dance drum
1. Create a rough guide: Depending on the occasion, venue, culture and situation in general, creating a mind map is an easy way to simplify your life at shows. It’s like this; you do a concert in a turkish restaurant, you have to have fun with only one drummer and a dancer for 15 minutes. First, you need to figure out how you want to enter the space, i.e. Or perhaps a simple, soft veil piece?
How long will you play the lead-in rhythm before moving on to the next main pattern? What’s the audience’s favorite beat that night? I mentioned it was a Turkish restaurant so Kasilima comes to mind! When the lead drum solo is happening, can the dancer play zills to give you some support? Could the audience applaud? In time!? how it ends? Maybe with a quick 2/4 beat and a spin for the dancer followed by a rizz (rush/roll) finish so he/she can bounce!
A truly open plan can help you pull off the act to look more professional and have some guiding lights to connect start to finish. There’s still plenty of room for improvisation, but you still have a rough guide.
At some concerts, especially restaurants and weddings, you never know what to expect. Because of this, you have to be flexible during the performance, but still with a basic plan between the drummer and the dancer. That always gives you that solid edge!
2. KISS the dancer! Not like that, friends! Like this – Keep It Simple Stupid. It’s an old cheesy marketing saying that many of you have heard before I’m sure. Well, if you want to be asked to do another concert with a dancer (and I’ll bet you a million dollars that the dancer booked the concert!), then the KISS formula will serve you well. Yes, you have thunder, and yes, you can outplay Hossam Ramzy on a bad day, but the dancers don’t really care at all. A dancer wants rhythm and clean drum fills. Less is more my friends. Also remember that a dancer (unlike us) needs to breathe. This can be difficult when there is no space in the music for the dancer to stop for a moment and gain composure.
3. Look at the dancer and NOT the floor: I am the first to be guilty of this crime. I once saw a video of me playing on stage for a dancer. We actually came up with a few things that she would dance to during the drum solo as well, which meant I didn’t have to watch her at all! I was horrified when I saw the video. I looked very disinterested in what was going on and completely missed something the dancer was trying to do at that moment! How can you play a dancer and not watch what’s going on? You just can’t! Remember that you are actually having a conversation and talking to her (or him). You say, we’re here, I’m doing this for a while and then I’m going to play for a while. This is the last one and then I’ll go there, you know what I’m doing? That’s it, fantastic! Now let’s move on to this idea.
You say all this and much more with your eyes and drum. It also pays to know if all eyes are on the dancer or you! Remember: when playing for belly dancers, it’s a good idea to use the drum as a Belly dance drum more than just a darbuka!
4. Get a vocabulary: Knowing what to play for certain belly dance techniques is essential. You’ll need a lot of different tones up your sleeve for this. Being able to roll over quickly is great, but can you do it for your upper and lower body? Can you play a quick roll and then get right back into the beat without missing a beat? Got a collection of puc or pop tones to use? Can you play a quick roll and then cue another beat with your right hand on that roll? Well, I may have forgotten the KISS formula, but it’s still pretty cool.
5. Repeat your ideas: One of the oldest tricks in the book is to repeat your ideas four times. These ideas may evolve each time, but basically the same idea is repeated. The fourth will usually have a small change that marks the end of an idea, and then the next one begins. Playing this way allows the dancer to hear what your idea is, create something, develop that “something” and then really put it together for the last two plays.
6. Who invited Aladdin? Speaking as a drummer from the western world, we can sometimes go overboard in the dressing room. In the years I’ve performed with Middle Eastern musicians, the only people who go to their shows dressed like Aladdin are Western musicians! If you go to a Lebanese wedding or a Turkish club and you see musicians, they don’t really wear that stuff. Such clothes are good for corporate concerts that hold a themed party. Any other gig and you’ll look a little out of place in many people’s eyes. Sleek trousers, a crisp black shirt and perhaps a patterned waistcoat are much more appropriate. Ladies can generally wear flashier outfits without looking as silly as us gentlemen. Food for thought!
7. Every dancer is unique: As you will soon notice, every dancer has their own unique style. This is something to consider when playing together. What worked last night won’t necessarily work tonight. Some belly dancers are petite and like to dance fast and jump onto the nearest table! Others prefer fixed rhythms so they can go through any choreography they may know. A dancer with a more sensual body may appreciate relaxed but interesting drum fills. It’s all part of being able to build a really comfortable relationship with each other and complement each other as a dancer and a musician.
A few more useful tips will be covered in the second article on Belly Dancer Game –Belly dance drum.’
Take care and happy drumming.
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